Tuesday, September 03, 2019

The art of shoes and symbolism

Something that is enjoying a great popularity just now is shoes which incorporate works of art on their uppers. A company in the US called Icon Shoessell these delicate artifacts to the rich and famous as if there were no tomorrow and at price tags which are quite staggering. Most of their sales come via their website. The fancy footwear is designed by artists, designers and stylists and incorporates many novel features which are not always seen in high street fashion.

For several years now Sneaker Freakers have been decorating their sneakers with colourful artworks. Canvas topped shoes provide a perfect medium for painting and colour fast paints mean the shoe painter is only limited by their imagination. Truly personalised shoes are the ultimate desire of all shoe enthusiasts.

Shoes in art have long held a fascination for artists from Van Goch to Alan Jones, the shoe holds its own as an icon and inspiration. The obscure French painter, Arthur Chaplin assembled a personal collection of vintage shoes in his apartment on the IIe Saint-Louis and used them to inspire his works. Another artist and painter, Jannis Kounellis always wore multi-soled shoes but no-one was ever sure, why. Vittore Carpaccio (1450-1522) was a Venetian painter and depicted shoes as turreted instruments of torture, designed to seduce. He probably was not all that far wrong for long toed poulaines were a contemporary shoe style that was eventually banned because of their sexual overtones. As a painter Carpaccio was influenced by Giovanni Bellini and painted with rich colour and a wealth of detail.

Jean-Antoine Watteau, (1684–1721 - Rococco style) was another Flemish painter who studied in the studio of Claude Gillot. Some of Watteau's finest paintings, were based on theatrical life e.g. Love in the French Theatre. A great colourist, he executed sensuous scenes in shimmering pastel tones which influenced both fashion and garden design in the 18th cent. In his painting Indifference, he paints little satin slippers.

Edouard Manet (1832–83), is often credited as being the father of modern art. His influences were Velázquez (pronounced, Valaskiss) and Goya, then later by Japanese, printmakers. In 1863 he painted Luncheon on the Grass, which when it was displayed was violently attacked. The painting depicts a nude woman enjoying a picnic in the woods with two fully clothed men. Subsequently the picnic became a common theme in modern painting. Manet's true masterpiece was entitled Olympia (1863), and was an arresting portrait of a naked courtesan reclining on a chaise longue. The theme by itself, reclining nude, had been popular for centuries but what Manet did, which subsequently outraged the critics and public, was to introduce the shoe to its role of erotic synecdoche (pronounced syn ekto key) or symbol.

Eventual acceptance of the shoe as a representation of the female vulva was considered by many experts to be pivotal to the development of western modern art. Contemporary development of psychoanalysis (Freud) made the eventual connection between contents and container to the point of singling out the specific sexual and fetishistic aspects of the foot and shoe. The deductive logic or syllogism was if the foot represented the phallus then the shoe must be the vagina.

René Magritte (1898–1967) was a Belgian surrealist painter who developed a style of surrealism in which misleading realism was combined with mocking irony. Based on Freudianism, the artist in his works the Red Model (Le Modele Rouge) elaborated fantasies constructed around common situations and metamorphosed the shoe into the foot. This unisex image many argue was destined to trouble our dreams, ever since.

The Pop Art movement emerged at the end of the 1950s as a reaction against the seriousness of Abstract Expressionism. Pop artists used common images to express abstract formal relationships. Artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol attempted to fuse elements of popular and high culture and to erase the boundaries between the two. Shoes became one of the emblems of the movement because they represented status and consumerism. It is probably no accident Andy Warhol started off as a commercial artist drawing shoes. Today’s artistic work painted on shoes is a commercial extension of the same abstract movement.

Reviewed 3/09/19

Monday, September 02, 2019

Jacob Boehme: A cobbler who did not stick to his last

Jacob Boehme (1575 – 1624) was an unschooled shoemaker who was born in Saxony (Germany) in 1575 and became one of the world’s deepest and profound mystics with a huge body of written work to his credit. He came from poor but pious parents who were Lutherans. As a young boy he spent most of his time alone taking care of cattle. From an early age he had developed a profound understanding of the scriptures. As a teenager, Jacob concentrated all his efforts on becoming a shoemaker. Then one day whilst serving a customer, the stranger forecast Jacob would become a world famous mystic and philosopher. He was advised to be pious, fear God and revere 'His Word.' throughout his life. The strangers also forecast Jacob would need to endure misery, poverty, and persecution throughout his life and his courage and love of God would see him safely through.

From 1612 to 1624, he wrote thirty books but his greatest work was his first book, “The Aurora: That Is, the Day-Spring” but the publication was banned by the city council and the shoemaker ostracised ordered never to write again. Despite this his fame grew and Jacob eventually years later resumed his work clandestinely.

The reverend William Law (1686 – 1761) Was a man of conscience, and became an admirer of John Byrom. He was influenced by the mystic, and these very tendencies caused conflict with John Wesley (1703 - 1791). Later in 1764, he translated & published The Way to Christ (originally in German Weg zu Christo), by Jacob Boehme, originally published in 1623. It compiles together several of his works, particularly, Of True Repentance, Of Regeneration, Of True Resignation, and The Super Sensual Life.

The Roman writer, Pliny the Elder, told the story in Naturalis Historia [XXXV, 85[1] (Loeb IX, 323–325)], about the painter Apelles of Kos who was in the habit of hanging his pictures where they could be seen by the passers-by, and listening to their comments. One day a shoemaker criticised the sandals in a certain picture, and found next day that they had been repainted. Proud of his success as a critic, the shoemaker began to find fault with a thigh of the picture, when Apelles called out from behind the canvas, "ne supra crepidam sutor iudicaret" (a shoemaker should not judge beyond the shoe).

Reviewed 2/09/2019

Tommy Cooper’s shoes: Just like that!

Tommy Cooper (1921- 1984) was a big man standing 6’ 4” foot tall in his stocking feet, all size 14 of them. As he was the night he generously donated his shoes to a local publican in Cornwall. The comedian's size 14 shoes are now on display at the Railway Inn in St Agnes. Tommy Cooper frequently drank in the pub and according to one story donated his shoes to the pub’s shoe collection before walking home barefoot in the rain one evening.

The pub have over a hundred pairs of shoes donated by patrons including a pair of Lillian Board’s running shoes once she wore when she won a silver medal in the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games.

Tommy died in 1984 after collapsing on stage in London. Now if you go to Caerphilly, Wales there you will find overlooking Caerphilly’s castle a nine foot high bronzed statue of Tommy Cooper.

(Video Courtesy: justmeteeby Youtube Channel)

Reviewed 2/09/2019

Sunday, September 01, 2019

A brief but curious history of shoes

Shoes retain a unique importance to human beings which even yet defines complete understanding. From the time hominids started to decorate themselves shoes became more than just protective costume with even the earliest archaeological demonstrating individual embellishment. From antiquity on-wards footwear became an important status symbol jealously guarded by the ‘well heeled,’ and through to modern history, protected by Sumptuary Laws to prevent upward mobility. Mythologies and folklore abound with reference to material whose significance hinges on the bond which links feet and sex together and according to Rossi ‘feet are sensual objects which often require to be hidden from unwanted attention.' No surprise to learn the word shoe is Anglo Saxon in origin and means to cover furtively. Bipedalism describes walking on two feet as opposed to all fours (quadripedal gait).

No one can be sure when our ancestors took to all twos but it is postulated to be approximately 7.5 million years ago with evidence of tools and language dating back to 2.6 million year ago. The earliest foot fossils exhibited characteristics of both arboreal and terrestrial existence and the transition from 4 legs to 2 is thought to have been quick likely as a pragmatic solution to environmental change. Hominids needed to move around the new grasslands but still with the ability to climb trees. The absence of forestation meant ground surface temperatures had increased and in order to keep the brain cool, hominids stood up. There is clear skeletal evidence to show blood flow to the brain increased significantly during this time. As bipedalism became the norm adaptation of the foot, knee and hip followed leaving hands free to gather and improved sight to hunt. Unlike other animals, early humans had a weight bearing heel, an inside arch, and big toe for ground leverage. From Homo Rectus to Homo Sapian (an estimated 2 million years) the brain became more complex as walking on two feet influenced musculature and body shape. Experts believe the form and function of buttocks, bosoms; the legs and thighs, tummies, hips and even genitalia were all influenced by walking on two feet.

Sigmund Freud, was convinced upright stance led to the frontal display of both primary and secondary sex organs and argued humans had no need to develop other senses when greatest benefit was gained by perfecting sight. The sensory centre which supplies the feet does lie in close proximity to sensory nerves of the genitalia. Experts believe in some people there may be ‘neural print-through’ which causes their feet to become sexually expressive. So for them tickling the feet would be the same as “tickling their fancy.” Covering bare feet and indeed exposing them seems to have a major social significance as the etymology of the word shoe will testify.

In the 19th century when Édouard Manet’s painting of Olympia, a reclining courtesan with her shoe half on was first exhibited in Paris there were riots in the street. A little later when George du Maurier’s best selling gothic novel Trilby, was damatised and the play’s heroine, Trilby O'Ferrall exposed her naked feet on stage, audiences erupted in riot.

The general consensus is shoes started to be worn during the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic period or the Old Stone Age (circa 40,000 years ago). If this is true then foot covers would occasionally be used by Neanderthals and early Homo sapiens. This timeline is consistent with development of tools, socialisation, and decoration. Skeletal remains from sites in Russia appear to have foot protection dating to about 27,500 years ago and European rock paintings show animal skins around the foot dating to 15,000 years ago. Finds in North America (10,5000 years ago) include a range of shoes and sandals with fragments of cordage. More recent finds are footprints in a cave site at Grotte de Fontanet (France) which show a shod foot in a moccasin-like covering.

Clothing serves three main purposes: decoration, modesty and protection. Whilst the latter may appear the most logical it is not supported by history (both ancient and modern).

Fig leaf mentality may explain why we covered up, but by far the major reason for clothing was decoration. In those early finds each pair of sandals were distinctly different indicating a desire to wear something distinctive, and decorative which might indicate an instinct for individualism. The essential purpose of decoration was to beautify bodily appearance, so as to attract admiring glances from others and fortify self-esteem. Prior to clothing prehistoric people decorated and scarified their skins to protect themselves from imaginary evil spirits. Gradually these magical patterns were incorporated into clothing as talisman with significant social and spiritual meaning.

As our ancestors covered up it meant clothing, particular for heads and feet took on new significance. The Displacement of Effect theory suggests hair, hats and shoes became gender specific.Remarkably shoes remain unchanged since the beginning and shoe finds from antiquity would not be that out of place in the shop window today. Further biomechanical assessment of the wear marks from early shoe finds confirm people’s feet have not changed over millennium. Our hunter and gatherer ancestors obviously admired the strength and courage of animals and wore their hides next to their skins to harness these qualities. Victors always wore mementos of the vanquished which often included testicles. Remnants of this can still be seen in modern shoes such as the tassels on loafers. Shoes also carried lucky tokens either incorporated into the pattern design or a talisman contained within the shoe. Again these can still be seen in today’s shoes with a lucky penny in penny loafers and brogue shoes.

Clothing provides the safest distance to judge a stranger whereas more intimate relationships rely on the finer features and speech. Privileged classes have always celebrated dress as a mark of rank, occupation and wealth. In Roman Times for example the higher the boot strapping worn by the soldier the more senior their military rank. The same demarcation was seen in WWI – where officers wore boots and enlisted men wore shoes. Throughout history a major preoccupation of the nouveaux riche has always been to try to aspire to the same privileges as the wealthy including wearing the same clothes and shoes were not excluded. Indeed there were sumptuary laws to prevent this and this sartorial trait marks our preoccupation with celebrity.

According to Rossi in his toe curlingly, funny book, ‘The Sexlife of the foot and shoe’ there are nine basic shoe styles, and everything else is made up of a combination of these. Chronologically these are: the Moccasin; the Sandal; the Clog; the Boot; the Monk; the Platform; the Mule; the Pump; and the Oxford. By far the most curious aspect of shoe history for me is footwear in both occidental and oriental societies were probably used in safe sex practice during the Middle Ages and in particular during syphilis epidemics.

Promiscuous sex among the privileged classes was prevalent in the Middle Ages and modern scholars now acknowledge Islam formed the basis for European Chivalry and Courtly Love. In the absence of feudal lords and Knights engaged in the Crusades young men of the court were taught to sublimate their desires and channel their energies into socially useful behaviour. European CL flourished in the early 12th century and the high minded ideals of true romance were spread by troubadours who sang openly of love’s joys and heartbreaks. At precisely the same time men started wearing long toed shoes which as each decade passed got longer and longer and longer. Until they were 24” longer than the foot they covered. Despite Papal disapproval and sumptuary law to prevent lower classes from wearing poulaines (long toed shoes) the fashion continued unabated for four hundred years. Shoes were stuffed with moss and grass and became phallic with hawk bells sewn on the end, to indicate the wearer was interested in sexual frolics. Masturbation was commonly practiced as a form of safe sex and two 24” long dildos would not go a miss. Wearing poulaines caused men to adopt a wide based, high stepping gait and this became the norm for fashionable courtiers. The same pattern is seen in tertiary syphilis. Another innovation at the same time was the Court Jester or professional fool.

It is postulated the introduction of the jester was an attempt to draw attention away from the madness associated with late stage syphilis in the Royal Family.

Something similar was happening at exactly the same time in China and from the 11th century onwards young girls (and some boys) had their feet bound from age four until 19 years. For over a thousand years this practice became a right of passage and the Lotus foot (3 inches long) was highly prized in a bride. Foot bindings secured a quality marriage and until recently the reason for foot binding has been unclear. However it walking with smaller step lengths increases muscle tone in the pelvic region and ensures tightness of the vulva. Procreation was considered the highest form of worship in the Toasist society of the 11th the century and anything which enhanced the experience was acceptable. In the presence of syphilis the bound foot was likely used in safe sex.

Reviewed 1/09/2019

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Children’s shoes: Buy wise

Wee feet need freedom to grow and “podgy” feet and “hen toes” (in toeing) are all part of the natural growing process no matter how odd they may appear. The action of rolling into flat feet in infants is perfectly normal and strengthens the long bones of the leg. Concern is often expressed at how flat the arch becomes but this is temporary development which the vast majority of tiny tots grow out of perfectly naturally. Mini adult feet only start to begin to form around the age of seven when the femurs stop de-rotating from their infantile position. If after this stage the child is accident prone and poorly co-ordinated then it is well worth a visit to the general practitioner or paediatrician for advice.

It takes approximately 18 years for foot bones to fully develop. At birth the foot contains 22 partially developed bones, by school age the number increases until 18, with the formation of the adult foot. The baby foot needs protection in the form of shoes only once they start to take their first steps. Tight fitting, baby grows; socks and bootees should be avoided especially in the early growing years. Toddler's feet need special care and attention and shoe size should be checked regularly every three months. Shoe fit is important and most children need a narrow heel with a wider forepart. This requires a special last which is why children’s’ shoes can be costly. Using hand-me down shoes will do no real harm provided no excess wear from the previous owner impedes comfort and the shoes provide protection to the foot.

To allow for growth, the shoes should be a little longer than the foot (1.5 – 2.00cm) when standing. Toddler’s feet change shape approximately every three months so buying well fitting cheaper shoes makes economic sense. Keeping shoes for ‘Sunday Best’ is not recommended and if the shoes fit then the child should wear them as soon as possible and not a few weeks later when the foot may have changed shape. Lace up's or strap fastenings help stabilise the foot and improve comfort. Children’s shoes have two main advantages to the growing foot. Protection from hard surfaces and sharp objects and support to the foot and leg during growth spurts. Most people will have one foot smaller than the other so it is important to have the feet fit comfortably into the shoes. Pairs of shoes usually come in the same size so it makes sense to have the longest and broadest foot fitted.

Most children's shoes are bought from shops where there is no shoe fitter, in which case a good trick is to have the child stand on a piece of paper. Draw round the edge of each foot, with a pen at right angles to the paper. Cut these shapes out and when in the shop slip the paper template into the shoes. If they come out crumpled, then choose a large/broader size. Buy shoes for growth and there should be a clearance between the tips of the longest toes and the end of the shoe should be about 1.5-2.00 cm. Any longer may cause the child to trip, and should be avoided. Always get the child to try the shoes on and encourage them to tip toe to check for heel slippage; test for length by feeling for the longest toe. This should sit well short of the end of the shoe and neither should the little toe protrude into the side of the shoe. Let the child walk up and down wearing both new shoes. Always take those shoes which are comfortable at the first try as there should be no need to ‘break them in.’ When purchasing footwear from the internet always follow the sizing instructions given by the vendor to avoid error.

Fashion today plays a very important role in younger and younger children although the range for toddler to primary is usually fairly sound. Children with long thin feet often have a problem and may need lacing or straps to keep them on. It would be rather naive to expect young teenagers to wear sensible shoes all the time. Cheap trainers will provide the same protection and at a fraction of the cost. Older children should however be encouraged to wear appropriate shoes for the activities they get up to.

(Video Courtesy: designworkswindsor by Youtube Channel)

More Information
How to measure using our large gauge Start Right

(Video Courtesy: Start-Rite Shoes by Youtube Channel)

Reviewed 31/08/2019

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Qi Xi Festival:The Legend Behind Chinese Valentine's Day

The 28th August is Chinese Valentine’s Day or the Qiqiao Festival (乞巧節), and celebrates a fairy tale from the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD). Qixi Festival always falls on the seventh day of the 7th month on the Chinese calendar and is sometimes called the Double Seventh Festival, or the Magpie Festival.

The original tales tells of two lovers, Zhinü a goddess renowned for her weaving skills and Niulang, a mortal cow herder and was first told in a classic poem 2.5 k years ago. When the young Zhinü came to Earth looking for adventure she met and fell madly in love with the cow herder and they got married and had two children. However, when her mother the Goddess of heaven, found out about what her seventh daughter had done , she was angry and stole Zhinü back. The lovers were heartbroken. Niulang vowed to reunite and when an old ox from his herd revealed to him he too was once a god and if Niulang killed him he could use his hide to make magical shoes to fly to heaven.

When the Goddess of heaven discovered his plan she used her hair pin to create a river of stars that would become the Milky Way to separate the two lovers. Their cries touched the magpies and thousands formed a bridge for the couple to walk over. Eventually, Zhinü 's mother relented and agreed to let the couple meet one night out of every year on Qi Xi, (the seventh night).

Qi Xi came to symbolize true love. During the festival, girls make a display of their domestic skills and needlework and will offer fruit, flowers, tea, and face powder to Zhinü on the night of the festival. In temples, girls recite traditional prayers for dexterity in needlework and to marry a good and loving husband. Children will also pick wild flowers to hang on an ox’s horns in memory of the cow-god who sacrificed himself. In some parts of China young girls hide in pumpkins farms or beneath grapevines, hoping to hear the whispers of Niulang and Zhinü in the hope it would help them find a boyfriend. Hair washing ceremonies in early morning dew are common in the belief the dew is the tears from the separated couple.

In Taiwan, people release floating lanterns into the sky to make wishes for love. The Qi Xi festival inspired Tanabata festival in Japan and the Chilseok festival in Korea.

Amor Vincit Omnia

(Video Courtesy: Off the Great Wall by Youtube Channel)

Reviewed 28/08/2019

Monday, August 26, 2019

Dorothy's red slippers: The most iconic shoes in Hollywood's history

Why should the truth get in the way of a good fairy tale?

In the original Cinderella her shoes was made of fur but due to bad translation from the original French, became glass for the Disney movie. Dorothy (Gale) also had a costume change and did not wear Ruby slippers as seen in the film version of L.Frank Baum’s The wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), but wore silver shoes instead. Now we could not contemplate these classic shoes in any other way. They have left such a deep impression with fantasists and movie goers that there is an entire book written on the history of Dorothy’s shoes. The ruby slippers with 2,300 sequence have their own fan club and a number of websites all dedicated to Dorothy’s foot attire. But why?

Many experts believe the shoes represent a rite of passage, once mastered open new delights for the owner and all who love her. Red in fairy tales represents blood and changing the colour of her shoes to ruby red may have had symbolic significance. Shoes are often a metaphor for the vagina and the imagery suggests menstruation. The character does not look for the shoes neither is she aware of them (pre-pubescent). When Glinda puts the shoes on Dorothy's feet and says,

"There they are and there they'll stay."

At first the ruby slippers seem like blight as she tries to escape the Wicked Witch of the West, but eventually Dorothy comes to understand their magical power, just as a girl comes to understand the mysteries of reproduction. This is not dissimilar to the first pair of heeled pumps worn by a young teenager going to her high school ball and may well, at least in part, account for the phenomena which surrounds adult footwear. In the past fairy tales and nursery rhymes were written as political allegory. Baum denied his works were so, but many believe comparison to contemporary events would refute his claim. In Littlefield’s academic interpretation of the wonderful wizard of OZ he draws many examples of allegory. The original silver slippers take on significance as a disguised reference to the Silver Standard at the time. Populists wanted Americans to adapt both the silver and gold monetary standards (bimetallism) when the yellow metal (yellow brick) prevailed. Farmers joined the Popularist movement became virile political activists eager to promote "free silver" as a way of easing the money supply and giving them greater access to credit.

Dorothy’s shoes were designed by Gilbert Adrian (Greenberg). He used the surname 'Adrian' professionally and was MGM’s chief costume designer. The shoes were made by Innes Shoe Co., Los Angeles, Hollywood, Pasadena. It is debatable how many pairs of shoes were made for the film but most authorities agree there were five pairs accounted for with two others thought to exist. The shoes which appeared in the film were remarkably ordinary and had red silk faille sewn onto them with red hand sequined georgette attached to the silk. The shoe design did not contain real rubies. There were forty six rhinestones surrounding 42 bugle beads with three large red rectangular stones. The bow was cut out of strap leather, 1/8" thick and dyed red. The soles were painted red and had orange felt glued on the front foundation to reduce noise during the filming of the movie. There were rubber caps on each heel painted red and the inside of the shoes were lined in white kid leather. Colour film quality in the late thirties was inferior to today and the rubies are darker than appear on film.

One pair of the ruby slippers was donated in 1979 to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C and has been on permanent display ever since. This pair was worn by Judie Garland in her dance scenes and has the felt on the soles to muffle her dancing footsteps. These are known as the People’s Shoes. The other shoes are in the hands of private collectors and zealously guarded. Rarely do they come up for auction and when they do exchange hands for extraordinary prices.

In 2000, the original pair of Dorothy’s Shoes sent by MGM to New York to promote the film were auctioned at Christie’s East in New York and sold for $666,000 (US). These had been previously owned by Anthony Landini who acquired them in 1988 for $165,000 (US). Roberta Jefferies Bauman, the original owner, won them in a competition in 1939. She was a high school girl and belonged to a Photo Play Club that ran a competition to name the 10 best pictures of 1939. Her selection was good enough to win second place in the contest and her prize was the Ruby Slippers. After Anthony Landini bought them they formed part of a display at Disney MGM Theme Park for about ten years. Now the shoes are owned by David Elkouby.

(Video Courtesy: Steve Jarrett Youtube Channel)

A short time later, St Louis art dealer, Philip Samuels purchased a second pair from Christie's East for $160,000 (US). A couple had decided to sell their prize procession which they bought 19 years before for $15,000 (US) probably at the MGM auction. Kent Warner was hired by MGM to prepare costumes and wardrobe for an auction in 1970. when he found the slippers in an old building he presented one pair and kept the rest. This may be why the studio thought there were only two pairs in existence. Warner kept a number of pairs of shoes and sold them privately.

Aficionados believe the shoes owned by Samuels may have been the pair that appeared in the scene where the dead witch of the East's feet lie under the fallen house. Samuel’s slippers have a higher heel than those in the Smithsonian and hence the shoes are known as the “Witches Slippers." Samuels unveiled his pair for the first time in 1988 at a fundraiser benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The “Witches Slippers” are lent to the Smithsonian when the “Travelling Slippers” are on tour. Controversy continues to surround the number of shoes made for the film. It is likely there were several pairs of shoe available to the actress and these could have been mixed up during takes. This might account for why the markings on the right shoe of the Travelling Slippers reveal 5C 11869 D536 which matches the numbers in the left shoe owned by the Smithsonian Institution. Shaw's left shoe is numbered 5BC 15250 which matches the Smithsonian's right shoe. No attempt has ever been made to reconcile the pair although they have been matched in a recent FBI Investigation. The remaining shoes appear to have no matching numbers and many theorists think this indicates there were more pairs made.

Actress Debbie Reynold's reportedly paid $300.00 for a pair of shoes sold by Kent Warner. These were called the Arabian Test slippers and did not actually appear in the film. Instead, they were used in screen tests and the Arabian Test shoes had no felt on the soles, nor were they ever worn by Judy Garland. The shoes were displayed in Reynold’s Hollywood Hotel/Movie Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada before it was closed. In 2011, the Arabian Test shoes sold for more than $500,000 at auction.

Although unsighted it is thought Bill Thomas owns a pair of size 5 slippers with Judy Garland's name written in the lining. The test pair was called The Bugle Bead Slippers and was allegedly found by Kent Warner. Although bowless these were purportedly worn by Judy Garland during filming in October, 1938.

Hollywood memorabilia collector, Michael Shaw bought a pair at auction for $15,000 (US). Originally he was acting as a middleman for Debbie Reynolds but decided to keep the shoes instead. Legend has it the slippers were discovered, wrapped in a Turkish towel, in a bin in the basement of MGM's Wardrobe Department. The shoes were covered with cobwebs and dust and in some places, sequins were missing. Shaw offered the shoes for display around the US and the slippers was used to raise money and awareness for orphaned children and AIDS research. The shoes were insured for over $1 million (US), and on loan to Children's Discovery Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, which houses the Judy Garland museum. Garland was born in Grand Rapids in 1922. The shoes were stolen from the Minnesota museum, in 2005, after a break in. Almost no clues were left behind, neither footprints nor fingerprints, and the surveillance camera was not working that night. Despite a reward of $1m (£775,000) being offered for their safe return and the thief's name no information was forth coming. The reward expired on the tenth anniversary of the robbery.

(Video Courtesy: ImmaculateConceptions Youtube Channel)

Recently the stolen shoes were recovered in a sting operation after a man approached the shoes' insurer and said he could help get them back. Grand Rapids police asked for the FBI's help and after a year-long investigation, the slippers were recovered in July 2018 during a sting operation in Minneapolis. To date no arrests have been made or charges in the case, but they have "multiple suspects" and the FBI continue to investigate. The stolen slippers' authenticity was verified by comparing them with the pair at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History in Washington. Currently the shoes are valued at between $2 million to $7 million.

Over half a century later the red slippers still hold their own fascination.

Littlefield H. 1964 The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism , American Quarterly 16 (Spring, 1964), p. 50.
Thomas R 1989 The Ruby Slippers Reference of Oz Los Angeles, CA : Tale Weaver Publishing.
Turn me on Dead man Trippy Films: The Wizard of Oz (1939)

(Video Courtesy: Movieclips Youtube Channel)

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Anthropometric studies suggest we are getting bigger

British men's feet are growing bigger according to a survey. It seems the average man's shoe size has gone up a size in the last decade. In 2004 the average man's shoe was a UK size eight but now it is size nine and demand for size 12 shoes have soared, retailers say. By comparison, forty years ago standard sizes for the male population ranged seven to size 12. The results confirmed the biggest feet could be found in Birmingham with Liverpool, Belfast, Cardiff and London close behind.

Nutritionists believe the human frame is generally getting broader and taller which is reflected globally and most authorities agree it is to do with being better fed. Research findings also suggest eating high-density foods such as pizza and processed foods during puberty can stimulate the growth hormone. This not only makes waists larger, but also other parts of the body including the hands and feet.

Some experts are concerned the rise in size may have something to do with the obesity epidemic many Western Countries are facing. In the UK more than 30 per cent of school pupils are now classed as overweight, including 17%, 900,000 classed as obese.

In the past many major anthropometric studies were biased because sample populations were taken from low economic urban dwellers. This included many malnourished individuals and immigrant populations not representative of indigenous groups. Better surveying techniques may suggest apparent changes in physical features which are already there but previously had gone unseen. Better informed retailers now cognizant of these findings have reviewed their shoe stock policy to include size 13 (and possibly 14) as standard fitting across all of their ranges.

Further information
Changing World, Changing Bodies Compass BBC Sounds 2019

Reviewed 25/08/2019